In the “Second Meditation”, Descartes operates on concepts the core of which seems impossible to doubt. At the beginning of this meditation, he claims that there are no thoughts since he has convinced himself that there is nothing in the world. However, he further comes to a conclusion that he does exist. The purpose of this paper is to provide arguments to prove that Descartes contradicts himself, but there is a way to reconcile the two claims.
Technically, the philosopher contravenes his first assumption but, in fact, this contradiction allows him to claim that he exists on his own. There may be nothing in the world, but he may exist in his personal world. It is crucial to note that, in his reasoning, Descartes seeks some form of support or fundamental basis (foundational certainty) upon which he can rely, and such support is not the mind as a subject of self-observation but something different.
He concludes that he exists through a series of discussions with himself with a justification of his scientific query. He declares the obvious facts conditionally false until he finds rational support for their truth. First, Descartes deduces that he is a thinking thing through a thought experiment. He then conducts an experiment with wax in order to confirm the first experiment. The strategy allows him to make assumptions regarding the nature of the thinking thing (while it is not a combination of some features). This way, Descartes proves that existence is identical with thinking and, for this reason, everything that he can reliably know about himself is that he exists.
The method of doubt allowed Descartes to find a foundational certainty for knowledge. In the setting of radical doubt, he was able to assume that he thinks, therefore, he exists. He dwells upon the idea that other knowledge may be questioned since it may be the work of his imagination or some force trying to deceive him. Nevertheless, he does not doubt that the reality in his mind exists because he is capable of performing the act of doubting. This fundamental understanding of the thinking entity allows him to assume that he should not doubt his existence.
Descartes is sure that he is thinking, and this is a property which he should not doubt. It is necessary to stress that the act of thinking is quite wide in this context since it includes not only reasoning but general awareness and consciousness. This act implies imagining, doubting, sensing, and other intellectual activities. Therefore, if the evil force or God is trying to deceive him, it proves that he is thinking. Notably, Descartes’s arguments are deductive and analytical in their nature.
This way, the philosopher can justify knowledge from different perspectives and not by reason solely. Descartes is certain that he is thinking based on the fact that he doubts. The act of doubting cannot be denied, and it allows him to assume that he is thinking. This provides evidence to the fact that he is a thinker. The strategy of his rationalization is as follows: I doubt – I think – I am.
The philosopher has proved that he is thinking, and he is certain that he should not doubt this capability. Nevertheless, several questions can be raised in terms of his conclusions. On the one hand, the philosopher is certain that he is thinking but, on the other hand, he cannot deduce that these thoughts are his. In addition, it is possible to state that his discussion has some features of subjectivism and solipsism since he has justified only his own thinking and may assume that only his intellection is real. Moreover, in his “Second Meditation”, Descartes considers different forms of thinking including dreaming, imagining and so on. It means that the formula “I think, I am” can be transformed into “I dream, I am” but this undermines the foundational certainty, which the philosopher has built.
Descartes is also certain that he exists since he is capable of thinking. He states that if there is an evil force that deceives him, then this fact itself allows concluding that he exists. It allows assuming that if he is deluded, then he exists. Also, the philosopher believes that he exists since he is capable of performing some act of thinking (imagining, perceiving and so on). He may be deluded about the content of his thoughts, but he is sure that he can sense objects and their features. However, the philosopher can be sure about his existence as long as he is capable of thinking.
It can be concluded that Descartes does contradict himself when he first claims that there is nothing in the world but then states that he exists. He employs this approach to find foundational certainty through doubting. He is certain that he is thinking since he exhibits general awareness and consciousness even if he is being deceived. Moreover, the philosopher is sure that he exists because any form of thinking implies that he exists, and it does not matter if the objective content of the though is truthful or not.